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Nigeria re-commits to ease biometric passport issuance hassles

Steps forward in Uganda and Zimbabwe
Nigeria re-commits to ease biometric passport issuance hassles

The difficulties currently faced by people seeking to secure biometric passports in Nigeria would soon be a thing of the past as the federal government is bent on opening more passport production centers.

Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola, while recently inaugurating a new front office and production center of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Ilesa, Osun State, said the growing number of applicants means the need to smoothen the issuance process, Nigerian Tribune reports.

Aregbesola admitted that the surge in the demand for passports is prompted by many factors including the resurgence in international travel which had been greatly hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said because of that slowdown in travel, there has been a huge backlog of passport applications which the NIS is now trying to clear.

“Fresh application will take six weeks after biometric data capture, while renewal requires just three weeks. To respond to the challenge, we increased our production capacity. In 2021, we produced one million booklets. Last year, we increased production to 1.8 million, nearly doubling our efforts. We shall keep working at it to ensure that we provide for as many Nigerians that are desirous of the passport,” said Aregbesola, as quoted in a related report by This Day.

One of the ways to do this, the Minister said, is to open more centers nationwide in order to handle the huge number of applications coming in every day, as well as reduce the wait time needed for the capture of biometrics.

While assuring the population of government’s commitment to improve the passport delivery process, the Interior Minister also called on Nigerians to help matters with their attitude.

He implored those seeking passport services to make their applications early enough so as not to be faced with a situation where they have to rush passport office personnel or require services of extortionist middlemen who claim to expedite the process.

The NIS Controller General Isah Idris, speaking during the ceremony in Ilesa, also commended the federal government for reforms aimed at facilitating the passport production process, particularly by introducing novelties which have gone a long way in curbing fraud in the issuance chain.

Complaints about hurdles in getting Nigerian passports have been rife in the past with officials pledging to provide appropriate solutions to the problems.

Uganda introduces polycarbonate passports, Zimbabwe opens centers

Uganda has introduced polycarbonate biometric passports with electronic chips to replace the paper-based electronic passports it has been issuing, Monitor reports.

The ICAO and East African Community (EAC) standards-compliant passport will have superior data protection and durability, according to the government announcement. The compliance with biometric standards will enable Ugandans to utilize automated flight-boarding systems and e-gates for self-clearance.

The fee for acquiring a Ugandan passport remains 250,000 Ugandan shillings (approximately US$66.20).

Veridos broke ground on a printing facility in Entebbe, Uganda last year to print the country’s ID documents, including passports.

Zimbabwe’s government has opened four more offices for passport applications, according to Bulawayo24, as the country attempts to progress in its issuance of chip-embedded passports.

Biometric data is captured at the centers, now located in Midlands (Gweru), Mashonaland West (Chinhoyi), Mashonaland East (Marondera) and Matabeleland North in Lupane, Hwange, Murehwa, Beitbridge, Mazowe, Bindura and Zvishavane. More are opening soon. The data is then transmitted to the production center in Harare, and the document sent back to the center where the data was captured.

Registrar General Henry Machiri says a backlog of passport applications accumulated since 2018 had been cleared as of September last year.

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